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EC officials attacked by BJD candidate’s men during raid in Odisha’s Puri

The flying squad team led by executive magistrate Rabi Narayan Patra had gone to keep a watch on the farmhouse of Maharathy, known for his strong-arm tactics, after being tipped off about the distribution of cash and liquor.

india Updated: Apr 22, 2019 09:42 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
The flying squad team led by executive magistrate Rabi Narayan Patra had gone to keep a watch on the farmhouse of Maharathy, known for his strong-arm tactics, after being tipped off about the distribution of cash and liquor. (PTI/ Representative Image)

A team of Election Commission officials was brutally attacked on Sunday night during a raid on the farmhouse of former minister and the BJD’s candidate for the Pipili assembly constituency Pradeep Maharathy in Odisha’s Puri district, in a fresh incident of violence in the state during elections.

The flying squad team led by executive magistrate Rabi Narayan Patra had gone to keep a watch on the farmhouse of Maharathy, known for his strong-arm tactics, after being tipped off about the distribution of cash and liquor.

“While we were keeping a watch outside the former minister’s farmhouse at Hunkeipur village, Maharathy suddenly arrived at the spot and started chasing us. His workers attacked us with bamboo sticks,” said Patra, who was severely beaten and is now being treated at the Capital Hospital in Bhubaneswar.

Patra and his team, who were bleeding profusely, fled the spot in one of their vehicles as Maharathy’s men chased them. “We had to flee leaving one of our vehicles on the spot. Had we stayed any longer we would have been killed,” said Patra.

Voting in the Pipili assembly constituency will take place on Tuesday along with 42 other seats. The elections for the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 assembly constituencies are being held simultaneously in four phases. The votes will be counted on May 23.

Puri’s superintendent of police Umashankar Dash said an FIR has been lodged in the case and necessary action would be taken. “We are still trying to verify if Maharathy himself was there on the spot or not during the incident,” he said.

Maharathy, who has been accused of criminal intimidation, rioting and trespassing in the past, had to resign from the Naveen Patnaik government early this year after he hailed the judgement of a sessions court acquitting two accused in a case of rape and murder of a Dalit girl. Soon after a trial court acquitted the two men in the 2011 Pipili gang rape and murder case, Maharathy had said: “truth and justice have prevailed”.

The attack on the poll body’s team came just a few hours after the president of the Congress’ Odisha unit Niranjan Patnaik and at least half a dozen party workers were assaulted by supporters of Badri Patra, the BJD’s candidate for the Ghasipura assembly constituency in Keonjhar district. Niranjan Patnaik was taking out an election rally when they were attacked.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s MLA candidate for the Bhubaneswar-Central constituency Jagannath Pradhan escaped unhurt when some people, allegedly from the BJD, hurled bombs at him near the party office in Bhubaneswar. Police said two bike-borne men hurled a bomb at Pradhan’s car when he had stepped out of the vehicle.

A BJP leader in Khurda district was shot dead allegedly by his BJD rival more than a week ago and last month a former candidate was hacked to death allegedly by the ruling party’s leaders in Ghasipura assembly constituency of Keonjhar district.

“This is the height of the BJD’s goondaism and hooliganism that its workers are not even sparing the EC officials. The deteriorating law and order situation has hit an all-time low. This reminds me of the last days of Manik Sarkar government in Tripura when CPI-M workers had unleashed a reign of terror,” said BJP’s Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha candidate Aparajita Sarangi.

“Our MLA candidate Jagannath Pradhan has been attacked several times. Even I have been advised to take care of my safety. This is shameful,” Sarangi said.

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 09:41 IST